Mister clean

Ray Rill

Photo By Larry Dalton

If you’ve spent any amount of time strolling around town by day, or hanging out at open-mics by night, you’ve probably met Ray Rill. As the proprietor of Awesome Window Cleaning, Rill can be found working magic with a mop, a squeegee and a bucket at various businesses, making those dirty windows disappear. Later, to unwind, he will strap on his acoustic guitar and sing a number or two by his favorite songwriter. We recently caught up with Rill as he was doing the windows at Floppy’s Digital Copies and Printing on J Street, one of the many stops on his busy daily route.

How many places do you clean windows?

Well, too much to count. It’s mostly shops, restaurants, small businesses, probably over a hundred steady customers, in Rancho, Old Sacramento. Once in a while, I do residential, and I was doing some auto dealerships for a while. I’m kinda back and forth. Stay busy. That’s the way it goes.

How many days of the week do you work?

Five or six.

How long have you been doing it?

Twenty years.

Do you paint windows, too?

No. I remove paint. I’ve got my razor-blade scraper.

How long does it take you to do a job like this?

Well, by myself it’ll take maybe around an hour; with Adrienne helping me, it will take half an hour.

What do you use?

I use New Dawn dishwashing detergent, about five drops in a gallon of water. About a half a teaspoon, give or take a little bit, just to get a little suds. You don’t want to make too much of a lather. Just enough to break the surface tension on the window and take the carbon monoxide and whatever’s, you know, sticking.

How often do you do one job?

Once a month. A lot of my customers are every 30 days. But some of them, like Tapa the World, is every two weeks. And Fat City and California Fat’s in [Old Sac], I do ’em sometimes twice a week, like Mondays and Fridays, mostly Mondays. And Rio City Café, I usually do it Friday mornings. A lot of windows in Old Sac. I just got done doing Marsh Carpets up there on Business Park Drive off Highway 50. And I did Hoppy Brewing Co. over on Folsom Boulevard and 63rd Street. I just kinda go back and forth between Rancho Cordova and Old Sac, and downtown, Midtown and uptown—got some furniture stores.

Are you still playing music?

Oh, yeah. Yeah! I played Monday night over at the Fox & Goose. It was great. Yeah! They had the open-mic night; there was a band from Australia that played there. One guy, he was climbing the drainpipe.

What were you playing the other night—original material?

No, I played a couple of Bob Dylan songs. I played “Girl From the North Country” and “Dark Eyes.” Lot of fun.

Do you like Bob Dylan?

Yeah! He’s the greatest! Yeah, Bob Dylan—yay! [claps] Wow, Bob Dylan!

What’s your favorite window-cleaning technique?

Well, I’ll demonstrate. I put about five drops of New Dawn detergent into a gallon of water, and I mix it up. Then Adrienne’s been helping me, so I let Adrienne wash the window down, and then I squeegee it off. It works a lot quicker. It’s simple. Anyone can clean windows. But if you want to make a living cleaning windows, the big secret is persistence. Every day, just getting out there.

Do you do outside and inside?

Mostly the outside. But then, once in a while, the inside builds up, so I’ll touch it up a little bit, or if it needs more, I’ll do it as needed. ‘Cause, the No. 1 law of cleaning is: If it’s already clean, don’t clean it.

Got any other business philosophies?

I’m just taking care of my customers, you know. Doing total quality. Because quality work costs less, actually. If you do quality work, that’s the main thing. That’s what I’m focusing on. Delighting the customers—that’s what it’s all about. Do it right the first time, every time. It’s not always easy on me, but if it was easy, everybody would be doing it, so sometimes it can be a real challenge. But then, public relations is half the battle, just getting people to be on your side. I think attitude is everything, just staying positive and cheerful and doing my best. You know, that’s the first law for successful negotiation—to be positive and cheerful. That’s what it’s all about.